Photo: Hakone Open-Air Museum

7 Outdoor Museums You Should Visit This Fall

Museums Insider Guides Art + Architecture
by Alex Bresler Aug 27, 2019

Summer’s long, sweltering days are coming to a close, but it’s not time to start burrowing indoors just yet. With its changing leaves and crisp, invigorating air, fall is one of the prettiest seasons to be out in nature, though you probably won’t be hitting the beach once the trees turn every irresistible shade of red, orange, and yellow. Instead, take advantage of these open-air museums from New York to England for a fun fall excursion that marries cultural immersion with all the beauty of the autumnal landscape.

1. Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo


Photo: Nenad Nedomacki/Shutterstock

The crown jewel of Oslo’s largest open space, Frogner Park, this collection of over 200 sculptures takes its name from Gustav Vigeland, who not only created each and every piece in the installation but also designed the park itself. Among the most impressive collections by a single artist anywhere in the world, Vigeland’s work celebrates the human form, depicting men, women, and children in sometimes simple, sometimes surreal poses. Highlights include “The Monolith,” a 55-foot tower of 121 stacked bodies carved from a single piece of stone, and “The Wheel of Life,” a wreath of intertwined bodies symbolizing the eternal life cycle. Frogner Park and the Vigeland installation are free to the public and open 24 hours a day.

2. Hakone Open-Air Museum, Japan

Hakone museum

Photo: TungCheung/Shutterstock

The first open-air museum in Japan, opened in 1969, Hakone displays more than 100 modern and contemporary works by artists like Rodin, Henry Moore, and Rokuzan Ogiwara under the watchful eye of Mount Hakone. Several of the installations are interactive, including a brightly colored net tucked away inside a wooden enclosure that doubles as a play structure for kids and a tall, stained-glass tower with a climbable spiral staircase inside. There’s also an indoor museum housing works by Renoir, Brâncuși, and a sizable collection of Picasso paintings, sculptures, and ceramics. After taking it all in, swing by the on-site hot spring to dip your toes in the thermal waters while taking in the beautiful fall foliage.

3. Yorkshire Sculpture Park, England

Yorkshire sculpture park

Photo: Electric Egg/Shutterstock

Since the 1970s, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton, England, has hosted cool, contemporary artworks in an undeniably scenic setting to promote “art without walls.” Exhibits rotate, but there are usually around 80 sculptures on display at any given time. Visit this autumn to see intricate bronze busts of each of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals; a political installation entitled “The Garden of Good and Evil” by Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar, featuring cages and steel cells interspersed throughout the landscape; and more. Beyond the exhibits, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is an excellent place to admire the beautiful colors of the season, and you’re even welcome to bring your dog along for the fun.

4. Storm King Art Center, New York

storm king

Photo: Felix Lipov/Shutterstock

Move over MoMA. Get in line Guggenheim. Not all of New York’s greatest art draws are located in the big city. Situated in the Hudson Valley a little over an hour outside Manhattan, the Storm King Art Center sits on 500 acres that are themselves a work of natural art. This fall, take in sculptures by well-known artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Goldsworthy, as well as those you’ll be thrilled to discover, backdropped by hills, meadows, and forests dressed up in bright fall foliage.

5. Gibbs Farm, New Zealand

Gibbs Farm

Photo: Gibbs Farm

Autumn in New Zealand may not fall during the same months as autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, but the country’s temperate springtime and gorgeous year-round scenery still make this outdoor gallery a great choice for travelers looking to go abroad this fall. Roughly 30 minutes north of Auckland, Gibbs Farm is a sculpture park that plays off its nearly 1,000 acres with works that integrate right into the landscape. Its collection, the largest in New Zealand, showcases everything from animal sculptures arranged in the grass to make visitors feel like they’re on a safari to impressive sandstone cairns and metalworks that offer a striking juxtaposition to its rolling hills. Visitors are invited to see the sculptures up close once a month, by prior appointment, when they’ll also encounter the park’s resident farm animals roaming about.

6. Tarot Garden, Italy

Tarot garden

Photo: ValerioMei/Shutterstock

Artist Niki de Saint Phalle was primarily inspired by two things to create this brilliant, bizarre, psychedelic sculpture garden: Gaudi’s Park Güell in Barcelona and tarot cards. She found further inspiration at sites like French postman Ferdinand Cheval’s dream palace, the Palais Idéal, which he spent over 30 years building, and Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Located in the Tuscan hills, the garden’s iron and cement sculptures are adorned with bright and shiny mosaics, glass, paint, and more. Some are humanoid, others more abstract, and all are equally captivating.

7. Laumeier Sculpture Park, Missouri

Laumeier Sculpture Park

Photo: Laumeier Sculpture Park/Facebook

One of the earliest sculpture parks in the United States, and among the largest to date, this open-air gallery just outside St. Louis sits on a 105-acre plot, with 60 sculptures that visitors can enjoy free of charge any day of the week. A great choice for families, the park puts on workshops during which parents and kids can make their very own art, as well as special free family days on select Sunday afternoons from March to April and July to October. Visitors may see large bronze tulips surrounded by the park’s living flora, a colorful cat sculpture covered in ceramic tiles, or abstract geometric sculptures amongst the trees, whose changing leaves in fall are a sight to behold in themselves, among others.

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